Swedish multi-reedist and improvisation master MATS GUSTAFSSON is an epicentric force across the international music scene. Relocated in Austria he is constantly abroad and on the road, extensively playing live and in studio with many of the most remarkable musicians from all around the world. He is a crazy vinyl collector and a fervent missionary devoted to his junky vinyl-mania, running also an excellent website called “Discaholic Corner” and three personal labels (Slottet, OlofBright Editions and Blue Tower Records). So no genre or kind of music seems really unknown to the man, and that’s the reason you can find his name involved in the most different bands and eclectic projects, ranging from impro-jazz and noise-rock to garage-punk-soul, electronic and experimental pop.

Rooted in these backgrounds are many projects he leads and co-leads or collaborates with. Included in the first category there are The Thing (with Paal Nilssen-Love and Ingebrigt Haaker Flaten), Sonore (with Ken Vandermark and Peter Brötzmann), Swedish Azz (with Dieb13, Erik Carlsson, Kjell Nordeson and Per Ake Holmlander) the free jazz / psychedelic rock / noise trio Fire! (featuring Gustafsson on saxophones, keyboards and live electronics, Johan Berthling on bass, guitar and organ, plus Andreas Werliin on drums and percussion) a special project that joined forces with Jim O’Rourke and Oren Ambarchi, more recently evolved and expanded in the Fire! Orchestra (the album is “Exit”, released via Rune Grammofon in 2013, where you can listen to 24 other great musicians from the scandinavian jazz scene.), the Diskaholics Anonymous Trio (with friends Jim O’Rourke and Thurston Moore), the “Original Silence” project, an always different combination of musicians and soundartists focusing on creative improvised noise and alternative rock-music (Guy Picciotto, Ikue Mori, Caspar Brötzmann, DJ Olive, Thurston Moore, Terrie Ex, Jim O’Rourke, Han Bennink, Tim Barnes, Massimo Zu, Paal Nilssen-Love, Dror Feiler, Johan Berthling, Otomo Yoshihide).
Alongside this long list there are the legendary AALY Trio (often including chicagoan reedist Ken Vandermark) and the new formed trio EFG (with pianist Agustí Fernández and trumpeter Peter Evans) without mentioning the numerous duo, trio and quartet formats featuring Barry Guy, Raymond Strid, Paul Lytton, Roger Turner, Colin Stetson, Martin Siewert, Sten Sandell, John Russell and many others. Eventually, as concerns the latter category, his red-blooded and roaring style on all kinds of reeds and flutes is a peculiar trademark in large ensembles such as the Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet, The Barry Guy New Orchestra and the Otomo Yoshihide’s New Jazz Orchestra. Among the latest Mats Gustafsson’s releases you should no miss: Balázs Pándi, Merzbow, Mats Gustafsson “Cuts” (Rarenoise, 2013), Ich Bin N!ntendo + Mats Gustafsson (Va Fongol, 2012), Mats Gustafsson, John Russell, Raymond Strid “Birds” (dEN Records, 2012), and Correction With Mats Gustafsson “Shift” (No Businness, 2013).


DEEP INSIDE: “the same questions for different views on music and the inner side of own life”


How did you start playing music and what were your masters in the beginning?

My only master was and is Richard Wayne Penniman aka Little Richard. The horn section backing him up on theose early Specialty recordings are monstrous! Unless then that, I started playing distorted electric piano and flute (!)in some local punk bands and King Crimson related music when I was 14, in my home town Umeå.


According to your view, what’s the main feature of your music?

That is up to others to decide. But…. my music has to be able to challenge. Not to please. Challenge the listener and challenge the players I do work with. Otherwise it is worth shit. Resistance is a nice word. Entertain is a terrible word.
What memories have you got when thinking about your first album or project as a leader?

Only good ones. Ha ha!
What are the highlights of your career so far?

No highlights. There are about to come….
Who did you most enjoy collaborating or playing with?

All of them. Anyone that kicks my ass and mind in new directions and perspectives! It is impossible to point just a few out. You learn something from everyone you play with, good and bad things. That is the beauty of this music, it can only be learned from others. And you bring all your experiences with you to the next collaboration. I love this mechanic!

How do you pick and choose your collaborators and partners? How do you decide the instruments or the kind of musician you need?

Anyone / anything that feels like a challenge. I dont want any situation where I feel safe.. then I rather stay home and cook food and drink wine. There has to be interaction. And the willingness to interact. Otherwise it is not interesting. Also when it comes to choice of axe / instrument. No pleasing … just throw yourself into it! And see what comes out!

Improvisation, composition, experimentation and tradition. How do they go together in your music and which of them do you seem to prefer?

They are all part of the music. Part of me.

They are linked together.

I need them all to be able to develop as a musician and as a person.

It is all connected.

“music is like living, but better” as Derek Baily used to say.

It is ALL about developing your own language, you own voice. And this you do with the help of other people´s experiences AND with the help of “improvisation, composition, experimentation and tradition”.

In your own view, what is special or different in your latest albums “The Cherry Thing” Bridges” (by The THING trio featuring Neneh Cherry), “Metal” (by The THING featuring the remarkable bassist Barry Guy) and “Birds” (by a trio with John Russell and Raymond Strid) compared to the previous projects and recordings?

It is simply the fact that Neneh is Neneh. And John is John. They are different human beings. And therefore the music gets different, thank God and Tor and Odin.

It is about the meeting – the interaction- the voice … and the MYSTERY!!!!

Have you got any remaining musical aspiration or goal that could fulfill yourself as an artist?

To develop! MORE!!!

What is special these days in your life?

My family.

My vinyls.

What do you usually like doing when you don’t play (family, food, books, friends, cinema, sports, hobbies, travels, whatever)?

Family is all.

Vinyl as soon as there is any time, in between music and family.

“One piece of vinyl per day keeps the doctor away” as my friend Olof Madsen, used to say!

What kind of message do you wish to deliver or communicate by your music?

The message is within yourself.

You need to find it on your own. No one can tell you any messages. Then the content is lost.

I can show you the doors to new perspectives, new energies … but …. you need to open the door yourself.

Very important:

I dont believe in program music.

I believe in the human being.

Even if the world is pretty fucked up right now … more then ever … when it comes to economics, politics, ideologies, religion …

The stupidness NEEDS to be fought back.

And with art and music and a free mind, this can be done.

A free way of listening – makes a free way of playing – ,makes a free way of thinking – makes a free way of acting!!!

That’s IT!

What do you mostly scare you while playing?

If you are scared, you have to rethink what you are doin’.

The challenge is to dare to make mistakes. And enjoy making the mistakes. To USE the mistakes and make good music with interaction that works with other people.

What was the the worst place wherein you played and performed live and why?

Every place has qualities. You learn something form every concert.

What was the best place wherein you played and performed live and why?

There is a string of very very fantastic places around the world … very many! – Alchemia in Krakow, Jazzgalerie in Nickelsdorf, Blue Tomato in Wien. Hide–Out in Chicago, Mary Jane in Tokyo, Fylkingen in Stockholm ….

But, if to mention just one … I need to go for:

Andra Jazz / Blue Tower Records in Stockholm is the BEST!

The best record shop in the world and the best place to play music.

Only 20 specially invited people to secret concerts and it ROCKS!!!!

It is very small and people are sitting surrounded by vinyl and almost no one can see anything, but you can hear!!!

Harald Hult, the owner… he is the MAN!!!!

What’s your most relevant defect as a musician?

Never had that question before, ha ha!!!

No one is perfect – and I think there are quiet a few defects here. I m working continously on them. But with the help of my masters and collegues, I’m fighting the defects down … or better; trying to use them as tools in the music. It is all up there for grabs!!

What was the worst thing or experience happened to you during your career?

This is all personal. ;))

And part of who I am. And why.

It is all part of the mystery.

And what was the best or the nicest one, instead?

Of course the birth of my two dauthers and meeting my wonderful and happy wife! But this goes without saying of course!

There are many great moments in my musical life to be told … but, I prefer to talk about them in a bar or in more abstract forms, from stage.

What kind of music or artists do you mostly like listening to?

Many many many … but only on vinyl, of course. Files and digital bullshit can other people deal with.

I m a bad discaholic …. So it is very hard to answer shortly here …

But my main focuses in collecting vinyls are: free jazz, improvised music, jazz (all styles … be– bop, hard bop, west coast, traditional), sound art, garage rock, psych, contemporary music, ethnic music … the list is long … and I listen every day … the more the better.

“My roots are in my record player” as Evan Parker always says. Very correct so!

What are, in your opinion, the most interesting or innovative musicians playing around at the moment?

Many many many … it is a really good time for creative music right now. New audiences … new places to play … new voices …. (but less money … and fucked up situations with support from state, county and town in every country).

There has been some true innovators the last 10 years, that I happily point out: Christine Abdelnour, Mariam Wallentin and Peter Evans being the three strongest personal voices, if you ask me.

But still … the first generations of players are still kickin’ in the butt!!!

And exploring new territories constantly. It is quite extrordinary what Joe McPhee is still doing! And John Russell….phhheuuwwwww….

And my old swedish collegues Raymond Strid and Sten Sandell! Absolutely mindblowing!

It is all new!

Influences, models, inspirations. Who did help you to find your own voice, style and direction?

You need to go and look for them.

you need to open those doors yourself. It is part of the process. It is part of the mystery.

I have many many many inspirations and masters … that really helped me to develop. And they still do. But…. my music wouldn’t exist without Bengt Nordström, Paul Lovens, Derek Bailey, Albert Ayler and Peter Brötzmann.

And especially not without Little Richard. This is a FACT!

How can you easily and masterly switch from an instrument (i.e. baritone, soprano, tenor sax) to another one (i.e. flute, other kinds od reeds and electronic devices)?

It is part of the mystery … You need to try … and keep on trying …

What was the turning point in your career?

I’m still looking for it.

Where do you see yourself going next? What are your upcoming projects and future plans?

I wanna go somewhere, where my ass and mind gets kicked hard by the people I work with and the people that I love and respect. I have been extremely fortunate to work with some of the best players and artists on this planet! And I can’t wait for the future. For the challenge. For the mystery.

It is all there. You just need to …


Mats Gustafsson:

Mats Gustafsson’s Discaholic Corner: